New Political Religions, Or, an Analysis of Modern Terrorism

New Political Religions, Or, an Analysis of Modern Terrorism

New Political Religions, Or, an Analysis of Modern Terrorism

New Political Religions, Or, an Analysis of Modern Terrorism

Synopsis

In New Political Religions, or an Analysis of Modern Terrorism, Barry Cooper applies the insights of esteemed thinker Eric Voegelin to this political phenomenon, which has been studied from other more conventional and less philosophical perspectives. Cooper points out that the chief omission from most studies of terrorism is the "spiritual motivation" that is central to the actions of contemporary terrorists. When spiritual elements are discussed in conventional literature, they are grouped under the opaque term religion. A more conceptually precise approach is provided by Voegelin's political science and, in particular, by his Shellingian term pneumopathology--a disease of the spirit. While terrorism has been used throughout the ages as a weapon in political struggles, there is a vast difference between the groups who would use these tactics for rational political goals and those seeking more apocalyptic ends. Cooper argues that today's terrorists have a spiritual perversity that causes them to place greater significance on killing than on exploiting political grievances. He supports his assertion with an analysis of two groups that share the characteristics of a pneumopathological consciousness--Aum Shinrikyo, the terrorist organization that poisoned thousands of Tokyo subway riders in 1995, and Al-Qaeda, the group behind the infamous 9/11 killings. Cooper applies the Voegelinian terms first reality (a commonsense goal regarding legitimate political grievances) and second reality (a fantastic objective sought by those whose rationality has been obscured) to show the major divide between political and apocalyptic terrorist groups. Osama Bin Laden's "second reality" was the imaginarygoal that the 9/11 attack was supposed to achieve, and the commonsense reality was what truly happened (the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the United States' subsequent military response). Cooper shows how such spiritual pe

Excerpt

The origin of this study lies in an invitation I received to address the Philadelphia Society in the spring of 2001 on the spiritual dimension of contemporary terrorism. the two other speakers on that occasion were connected to the U.S. Navy: one taught strategy at the Naval War College, the other, a retired admiral, had recently been chief of intelligence for Pacific Command. Those two people had been following the development of modern terrorism as part of their professional duties for many years. in contrast I have spent most of my research life in the area of political philosophy. Notwithstanding the distinct perspectives that political philosophy, naval intelligence, and military strategy brought to the analysis of the phenomenon of contemporary terrorism, the three of us as well as our audience understood that our differences were also complementary.

Accordingly, this study is not primarily about the objectives of terrorists nor their personnel, techniques, strategies, or weapons of choice. Nor is the focus on the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, international politics, the defeat of the Taliban, the war in Iraq and anti-terrorist activities elsewhere, the complexities of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, globalization, the ecumenic resurgence of ethno- religious fundamentalism, the proliferation of the Internet or of small arms and anti-personnel mines. Finally, we are not directly interested in the “clash of civilizations” made famous by Sam Huntington.

The focus of this study is on the motives of terrorists chiefly as expressed in texts they have written to account for their activities. To that extent it makes no great claim to originality. of necessity we will deal with the evolution or development of terrorist practice, but the focus is on the varieties of a spiritual disorder, what we describe more technically in the chapters that follow as a pneumopathology. Some of the information is well known, given the media saturation on this topic since . . .

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